University of Cape Town: Surprise sustainability award for UCT A/Prof

University of Cape Town (UCT) Associate Professor Jennifer Broadhurst’s innovative research around the environmental and sustainability performance of primary metal production processes in southern Africa has been recognised by the Women Sustainability Forum, who conferred her the Exceptional Women in Sustainability (e-Wisely) Award 2021.

Broadhurst, who is the Deputy Director of the Minerals to Metals Initiative, located within UCT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, says that the award came as a pleasant surprise.

“I have no idea how who nominated me and how the selection was made,” she says. “It was admittedly rather good to receive an award without having to do a rigorous and lengthy application or self-justification.”

According to the Women Sustainability Forum website, the Exceptional Women in Sustainability (e-Wisely) Awardees are “hard-working visionaries who take action ‘to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’ (Brundtland, 1987).”

“(The award positions) myself and the Minerals to Metals group as research and education leaders in the area of sustainability within the minerals sector on the African continent.”

Criteria for selection include contributing via initiatives for the development of activities aimed at positioning women at the centre of global/local sustainability agendas, establishing partnerships to develop collaborative projects across the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and supporting and promoting the professional development of women in their regions through education, entrepreneurship, leadership, employment and innovative use of technology.

Pleasant surprise

News of the award was communicated to Broadhurst in an email last year, and included an invitation to deliver a plenary at the Women Sustainability Forum (Africa) 2021 on the link between the SDG 11 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and the minerals sector.

The forum, a digital conference held in November 2021, set out to discuss the crucial role of women in achieving the SDGs and sustainability broadly. It spanned approximately 10 hours, reaching audiences across all time zones and featuring presentations by exceptional women in sustainability from government, business, civil society and academia. Broadhurst was also conferred the Exceptional Women in Sustainability Award 2021 during the conference.

“The award relates to the research and teaching I have been doing on the sustainable development of mineral resources, and more specifically to a postgraduate programme I convene in collaboration with the University of Zambia under the auspices of the Education for Sustainable Development in Africa programme,” Broadhurst explains.

Networking opportunity

Although the award does not include any financial compensation, Broadhurst says it has provided her with excellent networking opportunities.

“It also serves to position myself and the Minerals to Metals group as research and education leaders in the area of sustainability within the minerals sector on the African continent,” she says. “This is important in terms of promoting our teaching programmes and courses, and hopefully attracting top candidates and even research funding.”

Broadhurst adds that she is particularly keen to make connections with other sustainability professionals – particularly other women professionals – on the African continent and other developing regions who are working amidst similar socio-economic and environmental challenges.

“It is really important for these regions to develop the capacity to address their unique sustainability challenges as opposed to relying on models and expertise from richer developing countries, and to promote gender equality,” she says. “With their focus on the role of women in sustainable development within Africa, Asia and the Americas, the e-Wisely Women Sustainability Forum has the potential to play an important role in this regard.”

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